It’s hard to be1ieve that its been four years…1,460 days that have passed since I underwent a bilateral mastectomy in order to rid myself of breast cancer. It has been a long journey with many ups and downs. There’s been days that I thought I couldn’t deal with the physical and mental pain anymore, but somehow I found the strength to push on…and continue to do so each and every day.
I am reposting what I wrote four years ago. Even now, reading my words, I tear up. I don’t think that will ever change. Cancer leaves far more than physical scars. Those scars heal over time…but the emotional ones stay with you forever!
A walk to remember…
The day was hot and muggy, even though it was only 5:30am when we left for the hospital. The air felt thick and close, almost smothering. I’m sure that was partly the weather and partly the anxiety that was welling up through my body. I had packed my bag the night before complete with toiletries, a post surgery camisole, pj’s with pockets sewn in, slippers, an extra drain belt, phone charger and lozenges for my dry throat.
It was easy to find parking at that hour. Not a lot of people around at dawn. Once inside I “checked in” and was then taken to a curtained area on the surgical ward. There my chart was again reviewed in detail. I was hooked up to intravenous and was given a heavy gown called the Bear Hug, that has a tube attached to it that blows hot or cold air helping to keep your body temperature at an even level. It reminded me of an old fashioned hair dryer with the hose that filled up the cap that covered women’s curlers when they used to go to the salon to get their hair set.
At 7am I was put in a wheel chair and taken down to the breast clinic to have radioactive dye injected into my lymph nodes. Two large needles pierced the tissue of my breast and I could feel a burning sensation as the dye started to travel through the tissue. It hurt like hell. There’s no other way to describe it. I was given a minute and then asked to get up and stand in front of a scanner that would show if the dye had started to travel where it was supposed to. The radiologist said that the dye would probably turn my urine and stool a blue green so not to be concerned. Thanks for sharing that I thought.
Back up on the surgical ward, I waited behind my curtain as a parade of doctors and nurses came to check on me, ask more questions and review with me again what was about to happen. Everyone would say “Do you have any questions?” but I could barely speak as my throat was so constricted with panic.
“Relax, Patti.” I kept telling myself. “Take a deep breath, Patti. Everything will be fine, Patti.”
A young nursing student, named Emily, introduced herself and asked if she could watch my surgery. “It’s the first time I will have seen an operation. If it’s ok with you, they will let me into the operating room to observe” she said with great enthusiasm.
“No problem Emily. Just promise me you’ll only observe. No offence but I don’t want to be your first incision”. We both laughed and it felt good. I was breathing a little easier as I watched the hands of the clock move closer and closer to 9am.
At 8:45 a surgical nurse came to get me. “It’s time. Follow me. I will take you to the operating room”. I had been taken by wheelchair to have the dye injected but I had to walk to the operating room. With intravenous pole in hand I walked alongside the nurse in total silence. I was focusing on breathing and not throwing up. The nurse opened the door and I walked into a large very brightly lit room. There were six people all focused on what they needed to do to prep for my surgery. I looked to the left and saw a nurse preparing a large table with all the surgical instruments they would need. Scalpels, retractors, bandages and gauze. “Oh god, that’s all for me” and averted my eyes.
“Could I please have a kleenex” I squeeked out of my constricted throat. They didn’t have any. One of the nurses said she would go looking for one. I thought this weird that an operating room didn’t have tissues, but I guess snot isn’t a fluid they generally deal with in surgery?!
My oncology surgeon and anesthesiologist greeted me again. “Nice toes” they said. I had gone for a pedicure the day before and had bright pink polish on them. I was wearing sparkly flip flops too. “Hey, since we can’t wear makeup or jewelry of any kind I needed to add a bit of bling to the outfit”.
“You’ve got a great attitude” one of the nurses said. I smiled, thanked her and told her that there’s no point to be anything other than positive. Was I a hypocrite? I really was trying to stay positive and upbeat but I was also scared shitless.
I climbed up on the operating table. Its very narrow and very cold. The anesthesiologist started to put some oxygen over my mouth and nose and I was told to breathe normally. “I really need that kleenex” I said. A nurse handed my a wad of tissues. I blew my nose and tried again to compose myself. “Now lie back and take some easy breaths. I am going to put you to sleep with an injection in your intravenous line. Think of a lovely beach and imagine yourself there. As the mask covered my mouth and nose and the sedative entered my arm, I felt the tears streaming down my cheeks and over the breasts that would be gone when I woke up.
June 13th, 2018 is a day I will never forget. It’s a day that changed my life, but its also a day that thanks to the surgery, has given me my life. Fingers crossed the pathology report will be good and that I will hear the words “Patti, you are cancer free”.
President of As You Like It Marketing & Communications Inc. Award winning speaker and author. Breast cancer fighter and blogger. I’m sharing my journey…the good, the bad and the ugly. Hoping to help anyone else that has been touched by breast cancer be it you or someone you know or love.